Looking for Portrait Lens with Shallow DOF

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by tjdean01, May 21, 2015.

  1. tjdean01

    tjdean01 TalkEmount Regular

    Jan 14, 2015
    Or, should I say, I Want That 3D "pop"!

    My favorite focal length has been around 100mm. 85mm will probably be okay as would 135mm. I'm looking for the following:

    Smallish size and weight - Most 135/3.5s are small enough, but the Canon 85/1.2, for example, is too big and heavy for my liking, as is the Rokinon 85/1.4.

    Sharp AT the shallow DOF aperture - Take the Rokinon 85/1.4. I'm not happy with its results wide open. And, if there is a hypothetical 92mm f1.7 with very good center sharpness by f2, then that'd be okay.

    Low cost - The Sony 55/1.8 is a bit short but might work because it's a modern lens and sharp wide open. But even if were an 85/1.8 at the same size, weight, and price, I don't know if I could swing $800. This $800 55mm is the measuring stick. If I can't get a great lens for $400 or less, I might just opt for the Sony which, on my budget, would mean it would be my only lens except for the 24-70 kit.

    So far I tried two copies of the Rokinion 85/1.4 and got rid of them both. I could work with Canon FD 50/1.2, but I'm sure it's not sharp until f2 or so. I have several 135mm f2.8 and f3.5 lenses but they need to be shot at f4 to get the subject sharpness I want. Tolerable but 135 is a bit long and f4 is a bit slow. I bought a Canon FD 85/1.8 and this is the best so far. I need to stop down a tad, however. The 100mm f2 version I heard is better. But, instead of buying willy nilly, I figured I'd ask some advice first. Thanks!
    Last edited: May 21, 2015
  2. Nexnut

    Nexnut TalkEmount Top Veteran

    You might want to take a look at the Nikon 85mm/f1.8 G. Some folks say it's one of the 'best' 85mm lenses out there, my ex-copy was one of the finest lenses I've ever owned. It isn't too large and at around $500 new it's $100 more than you'd like but a used copy shouldn't cost that much.
    Last edited: May 21, 2015
  3. xXx1

    xXx1 TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jan 15, 2013
    How about Nikon Nikkor 2 / 85mm too? Don't own it but it is pretty good lens too.
  4. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur Subscribing Member

    Nov 13, 2012
    Ad Dieleman
    I could throw in the suggestion for a Minolta MD (Rokkor) 85mm 1:2 but to be honest I think all legacy 85mm 1:2 or thereabouts lenses will be pretty similar to your Canon FD 85/1.8, maybe with the exception of a Leica R 85mm but those are fairly big, heavy and expensive. There is a Contax 85/2.8 IIRC, probably a bit expensive but not as hefty as most other Contax lenses.
  5. xXx1

    xXx1 TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jan 15, 2013
    I have the Zeiss Contax Sonnar 85mm/2.8 and it is very good. For shallow DOF I have Samyang 85mm/1.4. That way I have a fast lens and good resolution lens but not at same time.
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  6. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Oct 8, 2013
    I'm not a pixel-peeper but have had a Canon FDn 85/1.8 since the 80's and its been outstanding...so much so, that when I ran across one in excellent condition at a good price a couple years ago I picked it up and stored it away
  7. MAubrey

    MAubrey TalkEmount Top Veteran

    A second for the Contax C/Y 85mm 2.8 is an excellent lens. Another option would be the Contax G 90mm f/2.8, which is effectively the same design, but you can get fairly reasonably AF with the TechArt adapter (...which is a bit expensive). Still, both are tiny, lightweight, brilliantly sharp wide open, and pretty inexpensive for high quality Zeiss glass.

    by Mike Aubrey, on Flickr
  8. WNG

    WNG TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 12, 2014
    Arrid Zone-A, USA
    If you can get away with manual focus...
    Tamron SP 90mm f/2.5 52BB Macro. A great all-rounder and one of the sharpest lenses I have tried. And seems to be the consensus.
  9. mnhoj

    mnhoj TalkEmount Veteran

    Aug 19, 2013
    I really liked the Tamron 52bb as well.

    One of my favorite m-less lenses is the Nikon 100mm 2.8E and speedbooster. Roughly a 70mm F2.
    Light, small, pretty good wide open, and relatively inexpensive.
    by john matsu, on Flickr

    I've recently sold away a Rokinon 85(a little big), a Vivitar T 85 1.8(not bad but see below), and the speedbooster.
    For the Sigma 60. Not fast in low light and you have to be more careful with backgrounds but AF(nice) and very sharp wide open.
    I actually like having more than a few eyelashes in focus nowadays. Must be getting old. ( :
    by john matsu, on Flickr
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  10. Kirkp

    Kirkp TalkEmount Regular

    Nov 2, 2014
    Mnhoj's 2nd portrait is especially nice.
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  11. metalmania

    metalmania TalkEmount Regular

    Dec 3, 2014
    Give 55/1.8 a try, there is $650 refurbished price constantly on ebay.
  12. tjdean01

    tjdean01 TalkEmount Regular

    Jan 14, 2015
    Thanks for the suggestions, guys. I'm looking them up as you mention them. I should have mentioned this term before as it's actually better than "shallow DOF":

    I want a 3d "pop"!:dance4:

    In fact, the kind of "pop" I want is usually only giving me a foot or so DOF so if that's a bit larger I'm not complaining (see Bokina below).

    Nikon 85/1.8 G - Looks nice but is a bit pricy. As is the upcoming 85/1.8 from Sony: over $1000!

    Contax 85/2.8 - Got a couple suggestions for this one. Small and in my price range. But it's over a stop slower than the Canon I already have though. Hmm. If the bokeh were specifically more bokelicious then maybe...

    I'm still thinking the Canon 100/2 is my front-runner.

    However, what about the Bokina? Tokina (or Vivitar) 90mm f2.5. Apparently the bokeh on that looks like it was shot at a faster aperture and is renowned for a "3d pop." Darn it. So many lenses to try! This is 600g even without the macro extension though. I don't know how I'd like that but would be worth a try The problem I'm seeing is that 90% of the samples with this lens are macro and most of the others are shot at high apertures of scenery. No portrait-type shots. Grrrr!

    Another problem is that people's opinions of lenses wide open differ :( I've yet to see a fast adapted lens wide open that is just phenomenal
  13. mnhoj

    mnhoj TalkEmount Veteran

    Aug 19, 2013
    I've yet to see a fast adapted lens wide open that is just phenomenal

    It's a tough order. There are modern lenses that are excellent wide open but most of the older legends need some stopping.
    The Bokina is one of the older greats with nearly no blooming. One of the best performing older lenses I've owned wide open. It did feel like a cannonball. Even made a D700 feel a little front heavy.
    I would try it or surrender to the fact that a good F1.4-8 lens stopped a notch or three is about as good as it gets.
  14. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Phenomenal wide open with butter-smooth BOKEH? Relatively small and light? That would be the Sony/Zeiss 55/1.8. I got mine for about $650 used and couldn't be happier.
    I also have the Minolta MD 85/2 which is pretty good (fully "usable" if not utterly immaculate) wide open, very reasonable in size (even has the 49mm filter thread) and not too expensive. Though, if I'm being honest, the FE55 does render more "3D".
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  15. MAubrey

    MAubrey TalkEmount Top Veteran

    It very much depends on what 'phenomenal' means to you. For example, the FD 85mm f/1.2L actually has higher resolution in the center than its contemporary EF bretheran. And the Contax Zeiss 85mm f/1.2, also from the 1980's, is even better. Still, what it comes down to is that regardless of the age of the lens, you are always going to have to pay for quality--even if that quality is 30 years old.


    With that said, all considering, the fact that you can buy one of the three fastest 85mm lenses ever made for $650 used while getting better performance than its $1500 newer brother, is pretty amazing.

    But of course, it's also a 680g lens and you've already said you care about weight.
  16. jai

    jai TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Feb 4, 2013
    Oh no, not you too! That term is used almost exclusively by people trying to justify to themselves why they spent so much money on (mostly Zeiss) lenses.

    First of all, forget about trying to find a lens that is super sharp wide open. Shooting wide open is not required, or even a good idea (especially at 85mm). The 3D effect works better when most of the subject's head is in focus, not just the eyelashes. Find a lens that you like when stopped down a little.

    Second of all, maybe you should be investing more time and effort in getting the lighting right? Probably get a lot more bang for your buck with off camera flash.

    Third of all, the thing Zeiss lenses actually do have that causes all the 3D pop talk is micro-contrast. But the dirty little secret is, you can get that through post processing. Lightroom clarity, plus sharpening with masking. Bump those up till it looks a little unnatural, then dial it back.

    This photo isn't a great shot (would have been better if I was controlling the lighting), but I think it proves the point. To me at least it does have that "3D" look to it, but it was shot with a Minolta MD 35-70mm lens stopped down to F5.6.

    14734790528_47e6fc40c9_b.jpg from a straw by Jai Sbr, on Flickr
    Last edited: May 23, 2015
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  17. tomO2013

    tomO2013 TalkEmount Veteran

    Dec 11, 2014
    Just an opinion to add to some of the earlier comments particularly around the MTF graphs. I don't dispute that they have value, but I feel that those reading MTF's should be aware of some short comings ....

    Many manufacturers report their results differently making MTF comparisons difficult or more often than not useless between manufacturers.... even two lenses by the same manufacturer may be reported out on differently. I've no doubt in my mind that the modern Canon EF 85 1.2L performs better wide open than the older FD design. It has more modern lens coatings, advancements in materials and glass design, production advancements, never mind the modern benefits of computer aided precise design models. I don't see Canon putting out a worse lens in the newer EF generation relative to the FD generation. From any real world samples I've seen the EF85 1.2L is a superior glass to the FD85 1.2 as it should be. Time marches on, typically glass gets better and not worse as manufacturers can capitalize on technological advances. However the results at a particular focus distance presented here would say otherwise. What gives? Possibly at the focus distance presented in these MTF graphs the FD may actually perform better, but it would likely be at that specific focus distance.

    Manufacturers also measure off computer calculations (or off theoretical design calculations if you go back a bit) and this is apparently legit to report out on. Of all of the manufacturers today, Zeiss tends to be the most honest about their lenses true real world MTF capabilities and tends not to artificially inflate published figures (I'm not sure if this applies to Sony Zeiss or not). Zeiss measures off of production lens samples so that their MTF results tend to be more indicative of real world performance. Most all MTF results that you will see will only give a narrow glimpse of that particular lenses performance at a that particular focus distance. E.g. Testing against ISO12333 charts and at MTF50 etc...
    Some manufacturers have been found in the past (e.g. Sigma 50 1.4EX DG) to optimize for a particular focus distance with lovely MTF graphs but then perform lousy in real world shooting at anything other than MTF specific focus distances. Here is an interesting example of it with the LII 70-200 compared with the FE70-200..

    Finally some manufacturers can have so much variation in their production samples (e.g. Sony Zeiss 24-70 F4) that it's hard to guage real world from published MTF so quality control comes into it too.

    The nuts and bolts of my point is that MTF's are nice and fun, but only tell a tiny part of a lenses performance and subjectively how you will enjoy it.
    One of my favourites is the Voigtlander 17.5 F0.95 for mu-43 platform - it has aberrations aplenty. Probably scores crap too. But I love it regardless.

    I'd also completely agree with Mike's earlier suggestion - the Contax system is a fantastic system with some of the best and sharpest lenses available in it's time. The 85 2.8 is just stunning. Subjectively I prefer the rendering personally to the Canon FD 85L. The contax lens is rocketing up in price over the past few years as more and more people are seeking them out as great alternatives. If you can get your hands on one, grab it. Even grab the contax G system and play with film too.... the Contax G system was amazing. Probabaly a better range finder than the Leica truth be told.
  18. MAubrey

    MAubrey TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Hi Tom, while this is certainly true. It is of absolutely no relevant here. These MTF graphs are from testing that took place at the exact same time on the exact same bench using the exact same testing methods and standards. They are 100% comparable. The only variable is the liablility of testing only a single copy. You can read the full discussion here (Google translate from Italian). The fact is that the FD85L holds it own against the EF version and even pulls a few punches of its own. If you take the time to dig through places like FredMiranda.com, you'll find that there are many photographers who view the FD version to be equal, if not superior, to the EF version.

    But generally speaking, the FD version is better in the center than the EF version, but the EF version is better on the mid frame, particularly at f/1.2- f/2.8. But at f/5.6 the FD version pulls ahead. Of course, the differences are always small and generally, it's almost impossible to tell the difference.
  19. tomO2013

    tomO2013 TalkEmount Veteran

    Dec 11, 2014
    Hey Mike!

    My comments on MTF was coming more from the place of encouraging the OP to always question the methodology used for a particular MTF graph but more importantly to use his/her eyes as the penultimate judge of which lens is 'better' for him or her rather than just MTF results. I wasn't really trying to nit pick your original post :)

    If I may use the link that you have provided to explain why I would make such a comment in this context...
    That link is really interesting and I think we are saying the same things.
    This tester was using MTF10, 20 and 40 testing results at infinite, 1 meter and 2 meters focus distance.
    Looking at the results at infinite, these results substantiate the point that at different focal distances different lenses perform quite differently (note how differently the Zeiss performs at different apertures and different focal distances - it's results at 2m and f4 are great). The FD and EF are very similar at infinite, and like you said, the FD has slightly sharper centre with possibly the EF having slightly sharper outer region. But since we only have cross comparison results at infinite, these are the only conclusions that we can make between the FD and EF here - at infinite!

    At 1 meter he is only showing the EF and Zeiss results (no FD results provided). At 2 meters he has only has published Zeiss results (nothing for the FD or EF so again we cannot say how they truly compare from an MTF perspective here). For my style of portraiture shooting if I was choosing between the FD and EF, I would be more interested in seeing 1 meter and 2 meter results as typically I'd be more inclined to shoot such lenses at these focal distances rather than infinity. So it's a pity none are provided here - or perhaps I'm totally blind (in which case apologies, I'll put my hand up and say I'm an idiot for missing it and thank you for correcting me!) Possibly they're hidden somewhere inside the badly translated google translate link :)

    Finally, a personal opinion on MTF results with respect to the K8 bench used here. The results from a particular MTF graph reflect a snapshot of that particle lens samples' performance at that particular focal distance on a bench that does not have to consider sensor toppings or sensor stack. Real world samples can and do deviate when adapting non native glass to a native digital mount such as Sony E mount, Fuji X mount or mu43. Differing sensor toppings have a massive impact on final output and are an integral part of native digital glass designs.
    Potentially the real world output for these three lenses could very well (and likely) disagree with the MTF figures presented here when mounted on a modern A7, Em1 or Fuji X - even at infinite, as each glass was never optimized for the differing sensor stacks. So for my needs, I tend to take adapted glass MTF figures with limited weighting in my overall purchasing decision. More important for me are the lovely images that your good-self and others have shown here in the adapted glass gallery. In these cases a picture tells a thousand words.

    (On a complete aside I'll be in your neck of the woods in a few weeks time so might PM you to get advice on places to go shooting, etc...).

    All the best,

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